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Wednesday, 31 December 2008

Samuel Herbert: The Man Who Brought Down the Conservative Government?

When John Profumo resigned on 5th June, after confessing that he lied to the House of Commons, the matter could have come to an end. However, someone decided that it would be a good idea to prosecute Stephen Ward. It was this decision that eventually brought down the Conservative government.

To understand what happened it is necessary to go back to 27th March, 1963, when Henry Brooke, the Home Secretary, summoned Roger Hollis, the head of MI5, and Joseph Simpson, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, to a meeting in his office. Philip Knightley pointed out in An Affair of State (1987): "All these people are now dead and the only account of what took place is a semi-official one leaked in 1982 by MI5. According to this account, when Brooke tackled Hollis on the rumour that MI5 had been sending anonymous letters to Mrs Profumo, Hollis vigorously denied it."

Roger Hollis then told Henry Brooke that Christine Keeler had been having a sexual relationship with John Profumo. At the same time Keeler was believed to be having an affair with Eugene Ivanov, a Soviet spy. According to Keeler, Stephen Ward had asked her "to find out, through pillow talk, from Jack Profumo when nuclear warheads were being moved to Germany." Hollis added that "in any court case that might be brought against Ward over the accusation all the witnesses would be completely unreliable" and therefore he rejected the idea of using the Official Secrets Act against Ward.

Henry Brooke then asked the Police Commissioner's view on this. Joseph Simpson agreed with Roger Hollis about the unreliable witnesses but added that it might be possible to get a conviction against Ward with a charge of living off immoral earnings. However, he added, that given the evidence available, a conviction was unlikely. Despite this response, Brooke urged Simpson to carry out a full investigation into Ward's activities.

Commander Fred C. Pennington was ordered to assemble a team to investigate Ward. The team was headed by Chief Inspector Samuel Herbert and included John Burrows, Arthur Eustace and Mike Glasse. Pennington told Herbert and his colleagues: "we've received this tip-off, but there'll be nothing in it." Glasse later told Philip Knightley that he thought that this was "a hint not to try too hard."

However, for some reason Herbert decided that Ward would be prosecuted. What is more, Herbert was willing to do all he could to make sure that Ward was convicted.

It emerged later that Herbert installed a spy in Ward's home during the investigation. Herbert recruited Wendy Davies, a twenty-year old barmaid at the Duke of Marlborough pub, near Ward's flat. Davies knew Ward who had sketched her several times in the past. Davies later recalled: "I went to Stephen's flat practically every night up to his arrest. Each time I tried to listen in to telephone conversations, and to what Stephen was saying to friends who called. When I got back to my flat I wrote everything down in an exercise book, and rang the police the next day. I gave them a lot of information."

Herbert interviewed Christine Keeler at her home on 1st April 1963. Four days later she was taken to Marylebone Police Station. Herbert told her that the police would need a complete list of men with whom she had sex or who had given her money during the time she knew Ward. This list included the names of John Profumo, Charles Clore and Jim Eynan.

On 23rd April Mandy Rice-Davies was arrested at Heathrow Airport on the way to Spain for a holiday, and formerly charged her with "possessing a document so closely resembling a driving licence as to be calculated to deceive." The magistrate fixed bail at £2,000. She later commented that "not only did I not have that much money, but the policeman in charge made it very clear to me that i would be wasting my energy trying to rustle it up." Rice-Davies spent the next nine days in Holloway Prison.

While she was in custody Rice-Davies was visited by Chief Inspector Herbert. His first words were: "Mandy, you don't like it in here very much, do you? Then you help us, and we'll help you." Herbert made it clear that Christine Keeler was helping them into their investigation into Stephen Ward. When she provided the information required she would be released from prison.

At first Mandy Rice-Davies refused to cooperate but as she later pointed out: "I was ready to kick the system any way I could. But ten days of being locked up alters the perspective. Anger was replaced by fear. I was ready to do anything to get out." Rice-Davies added: "Although I was certain nothing I could say about Stephen could damage him any way... I felt I was being coerced into something, being pointed in a predetermined direction." Herbert asked Rice-Davies for a list of men with whom she had sex or who had given her money during the time she knew Ward. This list included the names of Peter Rachman and Emil Savundra.

Herbert personally interviewed Christine Keeler twenty-four times during the investigation. Other senior detectives had interrogated her on fourteen other occasions. Herbert told Keeler that unless her evidence in court matched her statements "you might well find yourself standing beside Stephen Ward in the dock."

Mandy Rice-Davies appeared in court on 1st May 1963. She was found guilty and fined £42. Rice-Davies immediately took a plane to Majorca. A few days later Herbert telephoned her and said: "They would be sending out my ticket, they wanted me back in London, and if I didn't go voluntarily they would issue a warrant for extradition." Despite the fact that there was no extradition arrangement between the two countries, Rice-Davies decided to return to England. On her arrival at Heathrow Airport she was arrested and charged with stealing a television set valued at £82. This was the set that Peter Rachman had hired for her flat. According to Rice-Davies: "I had signed the hire papers, and after he'd died I had never been allowed to remove the set." Chief Inspector Herbert arranged for Rice-Davies passport to be taken from her. She was released on the understanding that she would give evidence in court against Stephen Ward.

Chief Inspector Herbert also interviewed Vasco Lazzolo, who was one of Ward's friends who agreed to testify for the defence. Herbert told Lazzolo that if he was determined to give evidence on Ward's behalf, then he might have to be discredited. Herbert warned that the police might have to "find" some pornographic material in his studio and prosecute him.

Herbert needed more evidence against Stephen Ward. He therefore arrested Ronna Ricardo was arrested by the police and agreed to give evidence against Ward. Ricardo was known as "Ronna the Lash", and specialised in flagellation. Trevor Kempson, a journalist, who was working for the News of the World claimed: "She used to carry her equipment round in a leather bag. She was well known for the use of the whip, and I heard that several of Ward's friends used to like it rough."

At the Ward committal proceedings, Ronna Ricardo provided evidence that suggested that he had been living off her immoral earnings. She quoted Ward as saying that it "would be worth my while" to attend a party at Cliveden. Ricardo claimed that she visited Ward's home in London three times. On one occasion, she had sex with a man in Ward's bedroom after being given £25."

Ricardo told Ludovic Kennedy that the police interviewed her nine times in order that she gave a statement that provided evidence that suggested that Ward was living off immoral earnings. Ricardo confessed to another researcher, Anthony Summers that: "Stephen didn't have to ponce - he was dead rich, a real gentleman; a shoulder for me to cry on for me, for a long time." Ricardo also told Summers that Chief Inspector Samuel Herbert was one of her clients.

Two days before Ward's trial, Ronna Ricardo made a new statement to the police. "I want to say that most of the evidence I gave at Marylebone Court was untrue. I want to say I never met a man in Stephen Ward's flat except my friend 'Silky' Hawkins. He is the only man I have ever had intercourse with in Ward's flat. It is true that I never paid Ward any money received from men with whom I have had intercourse. I have only been in Ward's flat once and that was with 'Silky'. Ward was there and Michelle."

It later emerged that Ricardo decided to tell the truth after being interviewed by Tom Mangold of the Daily Express. "There were two strands running through the thing, it seemed to me. There was some sort of intelligence connection, which I could not understand at the time. The other thing, the thing that was clear, was that Ward was being made a scapegoat for everyone else's sins. So that the public would excuse them. If the myth about Ward could be built up properly, the myth that he was a revolting fellow, a true pimp, then police would feel that other men, like Profumo and Astor, had been corrupted by him. But he wasn't a ponce. He was no more a pimp than hundreds of other men in London. But when the state wants to act against an individual, it can do it."

On 3rd July, 1963, Vickie Barrett was arrested for soliciting. While being interviewed, Barrett claimed she knew Stephen Ward. She told the police that she was picked up by Ward in Oxford Street in January 1963. Barrett was taken back to his flat where she had sex with a friend of his. Afterwards, she said, Ward told her that the man had paid him and he would save the money for her. Over the next two and a half months, according to Barrett some two or three times a week, the same thing would happen. Barrett claimed that during this time, Ward never paid her any money for these acts of prostitution.

The trial of Stephen Ward began at the Old Bailey on 22nd July 1963. Rebecca West was one of the journalists covering the case. She described Barrett looking like "a photograph from a famine relief fund appeal." Ludovic Kennedy, the author of The Trial of Stephen Ward (1964) commented: "She came into the witness-box, a little whey-faced blonde, wearing a sort of green raincoat with a white scarf round her neck; and when she turned to face the court and while she was giving the oath, one's impression was one of shock; shock that Ward, whom one had believed to be a man of some fastidiousness in his tastes, had sunk so low. For of all the whores the prosecution had paraded or were still to parade before us this one was the bottom of the barrel."

At the trial Vickie Barrett claimed that Ward had picked her up in Oxford Street and had taken her home to have sex with his friends. Barrett was unable to name any of these men. She added that Ward was paid by these friends and he kept some of the money for her in a little drawer. Ward admitted knowing Barrett and having sex with her. However, he denied arranging for her to have sex with other men or taking money from her. Sylvia Parker, who had been staying at Ward's flat at the time Barrett claimed she was brought there to have sex with other men. She called Barrett's statements "untrue, a complete load of rubbish".

Christine Keeler claims that she had never seen Barrett before: "She (Barrett) described Stephen handing out horsewhips, canes, contraceptives and coffee and how, having collected her weapons, she had treated the waiting clients. It sounded, and was, nonsense. I had lived with Stephen and never seen any evidence of anything like that." Mandy Rice-Davies agreed with Keeler: "Much of what she (Barrett) said was discredited. It was obvious to anyone that Stephen, with the police breathing down his neck and the press on his doorstep, would hardly have the opportunity or the inclination for this sort of thing."

Ronna Ricardo gave evidence on the second day of the trial. Ludovic Kennedy, the author of The Trial of Stephen Ward (1964) commented that unlike Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies "she made no pretensions about not being a tart." Kennedy added "She had dyed red hair and a pink jumper and a total lack of any sort of finesse".

While being cross-examined by Melvyn Griffith-Jones Ricardo claimed she had told untruths about Stephen Ward in her statement on 5th April because of threats made by the police. "The statements which I have made to the police were untrue. I made them because I did not want my young sister to go to a remand home or my baby taken away from me. Mr. Herbert told me they would take my sister away and take my baby if I didn't make the statements."

As Mandy Rice-Davies pointed out: "When Ronna Ricardo, who had provided strong evidence against him at the early hearing, came into court she swore under oath that her earlier evidence had been false. She had lied to satisfy the police, that they had threatened her, if she refused, with taking her baby and her young sister into care. Despite the most aggressive attack from Mr Griffith Jones, and barely concealed hostility from the judge, she stuck to her story, that this was the truth and the earlier story she had told was lies." As Ricardo later told Anthony Summers: "Stephen was a good friend of mine. But Inspector Herbert was a good friend as well, so it was complicated."

Stephen Ward told his defence counsel, James Burge: "One of my great perils is that at least half a dozen of the (witnesses) are lying and their motives vary from malice to cupidity and fear... In the case of both Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies there is absolutely no doubt that they are committed to stories which are already sold or could be sold to newspapers and that my conviction would free these newspapers to print stories which they would otherwise be quite unable to print (for libel reasons)."

Stephen Ward was very upset by the judge's summing-up that included the following: "If Stephen Ward was telling the truth in the witness box, there are in this city many witnesses of high estate and low who could have come and testified in support of his evidence." Several people present in the court claimed that Judge Archie Pellow Marshall was clearly biased against Ward. France Soir reported: "However impartial he tried to appear, Judge Marshall was betrayed by his voice."

That night Ward wrote to his friend, Noel Howard-Jones: "It is really more than I can stand - the horror, day after day at the court and in the streets. It is not only fear, it is a wish not to let them get me. I would rather get myself. I do hope I have not let people down too much. I tried to do my stuff but after Marshall's summing-up, I've given up all hope." Ward then took an overdose of sleeping tablets. He was in a coma when the jury reached their verdict of guilty of the charge of living on the immoral earnings of Christine Keeler and Mandy Rice-Davies on Wednesday 31st July. However, he was found not guilty of the charges relating to Ronna Ricardo and Vickie Barrett. Three days later, Ward died in St Stephen's Hospital.

In his book, The Trial of Stephen Ward (1964), Ludovic Kennedy considers the guilty verdict of Ward to be a miscarriage of justice. In An Affair of State (1987), the journalist, Philip Knightley argues: "Witnesses were pressured by the police into giving false evidence. Those who had anything favourable to say were silenced. And when it looked as though Ward might still survive, the Lord Chief Justice shocked the legal profession with an unprecedented intervention to ensure Ward would be found guilty."Ward's defence team found suicide notes addressed to Vickie Barrett, Ronna Ricardo, Melvyn Griffith-Jones, James Burge and Lord Denning: Barrett's letter said: "I don't know what it was or who it was that made you do what you did. But if you have any decency left, you should tell the truth like Ronna Ricardo. You owe this not to me, but to everyone who may be treated like you or like me in the future."

The letter was passed to Barry O'Brien, a journalist who worked for the Daily Telegraph. He later recalled: "We were alone in the room. I told her that Dr. Ward had died and that on the night he had taken the overdose he had written her a letter. I told her that I had a photograph copy of the letter with me and gave it to her. She was greatly shocked at learning Dr. Ward was dead."

O'Brien claimed that Vickie Barrett responded with the following words: "It was all lies. But I never thought he would die. I didn't want him to die. It was not all lies. I did go to the flat but it was only to do business with Stephen Ward. It was not true I went with other men." Barrett admitted that she had been coerced into giving her evidence by the police. According to O'Brien she told him that Herbert had threatened that if she did not do what he wanted she would never be able to show her face in Notting Hill again. Barrett agreed to go to see Ward's solicitor, then went to another room to get her coat. According to O'Brien, an older women who was living in the house came out, and said: "Miss Barrett was not going anywhere." Barrett later retracted her retraction.

According to Sergeant Mike Glasse, all the police officers had been told before Ward's trial that if the prosecution was successful they would receive promotions, "but not immediately, because it would not look good." Samuel Herbert was promoted to the rank of Superintendent.

Samuel Herbert died of a heart attack on 16th April 1966. In his will he left only £300, which was commensurate with the police salaries at that time. However, after his death his bank account was discovered to contain no less than £30,000 (660,000 by today's values). According to Philip Knightley: "By coincidence, in the tape recordings which Christine Keeler made with her manager, Robin Drury, Keeler says that John Lewis, Ward's bitter enemy, had offered her £30,000 for information leading to Ward's conviction and the bringing down of the Conservative Government."

http://www.spartacus.schoolnet.co.uk/SPYherbert.htm

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